Muscadine Bloodline Play From Memory on ‘Teenage Dixie’

People say you can’t go home again. When you do, it’s never quite the same as when you left. But the memories from that particular place and time never really fade, kept safely in the back of the mind, the contours of the brain snaking like backroads littered with tattered homecoming ribbons, parched petals from a withered corsage, and faded yearbook images of the one that got away.

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Muscadine Bloodline doesn’t go home on their new album, Teenage Dixie, they play from memory instead. With their third studio album, the country duo—made up of Charlie Muncaster and Gary Stanton—take listeners on a nostalgic voyage through their hometown of South Alabama, illustrating small-town adolescence, the desire to escape, and the pull that a place has once you do.

“We don’t get to live as much as we did when we were kids, when you had nothing to do, nothing going on,” Gary explains to American Songwriter. The two Mobile-bred musicians are far from the seventeen-year-olds portrayed on the album’s title track, a tune which aptly remarks, They don’t tell you that when you turn eighteen, against a sweltering beat and desperate strums.

A handful of records, innumerable performances, and two separate weddings later, the pair are at a new stage in their lives, seemingly miles away from the kids they were in the place they grew up. “We haven’t lived there in ten years, so that’s why the writing feels like kind of a throwback,” Gary adds.

Muscadine Bloodline cemented their muscular country sound on their 2022 release, Dispatch to 16th Ave., but in order to move forward, the duo needed to take a step back, trace their roots through the roads of Mobile, and feel the familiar embrace of the places that raised them. Listeners may not know the route, but Teenage Dixie leads the way, all along unearthing the past, the truth, and the yarns too good not to spin.

When writing for the album, the pair took their time to painstakingly craft the record’s 16 tracks. “Our process has changed over the years,” Charlie explains. “We used to just sit down and force a song almost three or four times a week.” They have gotten more comfortable with letting inspiration lead and have found solace in the fact that a song doesn’t have to be built in a day. “I think that does make the songs better and it’s made this record, in particular, what it is,” Charlie adds.

A careful mix of both of their musical influences, the album’s sound in itself is nostalgic for the past. Charlie lets his penchant for ’90s country shine, bringing a tough-as-nail baritone to tracks like “Me On You,” “Knife to a Gunfight,” and “Evinrudin’,” while Gary provides a songwriter’s depth to the record’s infectiously singable tunes, highlighting stories that can’t be found in history books and weaving fantastical tales from whispers of truth.

Teenage Dixie is riddled with characters, like the real-life smuggler running contraband out of Bayou La Batre in “Old Man Gillich,” or the mighty W.T., who took down Satan in the album’s sequel to Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” The album comes to a close with the cinematic “Shootout in Saraland,” a song-story about Mobile’s own Hatfield and McCoy-style blood feud between the Cochran and Pruitt families.

“It’s really cool to create characters that are larger than life, and even if they’re not, making them larger than life,” Gary says. “That’s the most addicting thing about songwriting is the fact that you can tap into a culture, or you can tap into a geographic area that maybe no one knows, but you’re going to give them a story that they can resonate with.”

Like the duo, most can resonate with the desire to leave the place they’re from. “When you’re in high school, all you want to do is leave,” Charlie says, “You end up leaving, and … it makes you realize how much you love the place you wanted to leave your whole life.”

Adding “Distance definitely makes the heart grow fonder.”

Muscadine Bloodline’s Teenage Dixie is a love letter to their raising, a celebration of their roots, and an honest take on what “dixie” means for two musicians who were brought up in the heart of it. The result is a raw, unapologetic homage to where they came from.

‘Teenage Dixie’ album cover / Shorefire Media

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